Under-40s to be offered different Covid vaccine to AstraZeneca amid clot fears

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People under 40 are to be offered an alternative vaccine to the AstraZeneca jab.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has announced a change to its guidance.

The jab, developed at the University of Oxford, carries with it a slightly increased risk of blood clots (affecting roughly 10 in a million vaccinated people), with an extremely small number proving fatal.

In older age groups the risk is far outweighed by the risk of dying from Covid-19, but for younger people, who are far less likely to become ill and die from the virus, it has been decided that is not the case.

Previously the cut-off for having AstraZeneca was set at 30, but that has not been bumped up to 40 with the UK's epidemic increasingly coming under control.

Patients under 40 will now get either the Pfizer or Moderna jabs, and with healthy supply levels it is thought the announcement will not delay people getting vaccinated.

Professor Wei Shin Lim, Covid-19 chair for JCVI, said: "Safety remains our number one priority.

"The Covid-19 vaccines have already saved thousands of lives and the benefit for the majority of the population is clear – if you are offered the vaccine, you should take it.

He said the committee is continually assessing the benefit-risk balance of vaccines and they have made the decision as Covid-19 rates continue to come under control and the UK has a "wide portfolio of vaccines available".

The advice for people aged 18-39 is "specific to circumstances in the UK", he added.

Professor Lim says the strength and speed of the vaccine programme will protect us and says a future wave of infection is likely to be smaller than previously anticipated.

He said: "This is good news for all of us."

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, has said the advice from the UK medicines regulator has not changed.

She says the "balance of benefits" for taking the AstraZeneca jab in older people remains "very favourable", but added that it is "more finely balanced" for younger people.

Professor Lim said he hoped the announcement would boost the confidence of young people in the vaccination programme.

Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, said the UK is still on course to reach its target of giving every adult their first jab by July 31.

People who have already had their first dose of the AstraZeneca jab should have the same vaccine for their second.

  • Coronavirus

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